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Cape Verde Spends United States' Millennium Grant

  • Phuong Tran

Cape Verde is in the process of spending America's large investment in the tiny cluster of islands and its half million residents. One of the first to sign a Millennium Challenge Compact with the United States, Cape Verde's government is racing to meet a five-year deadline to spend millions of dollars. Phuong Tran has more from Praia, Cape Verde.

The United States has signed what is called Millennium Challenge Compacts with 11 countries, including four in West Africa. These agreements award poor-but-stable, well-governed countries money to decrease poverty.

In 2005, Cape Verde was one of the first countries to sign these compacts. It has received $110 million to spend, in five years.

Laurent Mehdi Brito, the director of the local organization set up to manage the grant, says it has taken time for his organization to learn how to follow the Millennium Grant's rules and to work with American officials, who monitor how the funds are spent.

The Cape Verde government wants to use the money to fix the country's biggest port, which handles almost all of the islands' cargo.

Other funding wishes are roads, agriculture and helping local businesses take advantage of foreign investments - especially in tourism.

Brito admits the current tourism boom has not really benefited locals.

He says one of the grant's goals is to help Cape Verde's entrepreneurs stay in business when foreign investors come in. He says the grant money can help locals develop services for those investors, rather than trying to compete against them.

Some donors working in Cape Verde say their concern is that the United States is coming in with a lot of cash, without coordinating with other donors.

But Cape Verde's representative for the International Finance Corporation, Markus Scheuermaier, says a grant this large is hard to coordinate - especially when it involves tourism.

"A lot of the donors are obviously interested in the tourism sector," he said. "The challenge is really to find a way to manage all the interests, developments, investments that are taking place and will take place over the next few years."

The Cape Verde government is expected to start the Millennium projects by the end of this year.

Grant Director Brito says this deadline is tight, but that his government knew the rules when it accepted the Millennium Grant.

He adds he is confident the programs are well-planned and can continue, even after American funding ends in 2010.

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